Bringing Light to a Concrete Spa
Only a pool light was installed in this builders pool/spa package. The new homeowner resents the fact that he can light his pool, but after dark his spa becomest a darkdeep, eerie hole.
One pool company advised him that adding a light now was physically impossible. Another warned him it was against building code. He'd found the color changing fixture he wanted and now he just needed someone to install it for him.
We told him it wouldn't be cheap.
To meet code the light fixture must be installed at least 18 inches below operating water level. Because the standard seat is about 20" below water level (so spa water roils at mid chest level; deep enough to massage your back, shallow enough to sip champagne), any directly electrified lights must be installed in the lower section of wall.
Note: Fiber optic or photonic display fiber terminals carry no electricity (only cool light streams of aroused photons ) and can be safely installed anywhere above or below water level.
Residential spa seats are typically solid concrete (no steel rebar) and include the four inch thick wall behind the top seat section. You'll need to dig out enough concrete to permit a 2" buffer zone around the niche. This allows flush and water tight placement within the seat.
You'll find steel where you exit the back of the spa wall.
You'll need to expose enough rebar in the spa wall to secure a grounding lug, which is what inspired the faint, crayoned arc (right) on the back wall. Fortunately, steel was immediately accessible and no further excavation of the hole was necessary.
After demolition is completed, the spa is prepped for a new plaster surface by undercutting the waterline tile, chipping out around all the return fittings, vacuuming up the debris and acid washing and rinsing what's left. A bond coat was applied to the entire surface and new seat edge tile line was applied over the original.
When the spa is dry again, one end of a 3' section of #8 solid, green coated wire was secured to a ground lug and the lug was secured to steel rebar. The other end of ground wire was secured to the back of the niche. Excess wire was folded underneath the conduit.
The deck is only about four feet wide and a conduit is easily driven from inside the spa, out toward the deck. Because working room within the spa is a problem, we started with a 3' section of conduit, added a coupler and another 2' section of straight pipe and a 90 degree 'sweep' to clear the back edge of the deck.
Once you have the sweep properly set (sited and up-right), you want to 'eye-ball' and cut the conduit to the approximate correct length. Glue conduit into socket at back of the niche.
The conduit isn't at the angle we need for the light niche to sit flush with the inner spa wall. To adjust the angle, simply dab a generous helping of PVC glue over approx. 1 foot of exposed conduit and immediately light it. Be aware that this outdated 'geezer procedure' (rash, brash and totally trash, yet seems to somehow get the job done) puts you in close proximity to open flames and smoke coming off of the conduit can and will cause lung damage. The flame will last for about a minute and it will take another moment before the conduit is pliable enough to bend. Use heavy gloves or any tool to assist bending, careful not to crimp the pipe. A 'trick' is to slide a 1/2" or 3/4" pipe inside the 1" conduit to prevent the heated pipe from crimping or creasing. When you get the proper angle, toss water onto the conduit to freeze it in place.
Another length of #8 ground wire is secured to a ground lug inside the niche and pushed back through the 6' of conduit. Plans call for a junction box situated immediately outside the deck and sufficient wire is inserted to make this short run. A third ground wire is included in the light cord and, with the independent ground pushed through the conduit will be united with a ground wire run from the pool subpanel.
Note: Some municipalities require a separate ground terminus between spa and junction box (j-box). This is more a city's sexy fashion statement than anything to do with safety; everybody else is doing it, it complicates the code and adds to the budget when an inspector turns it down with a hefty fee for re-inspection. (Seminole County is constantly 'updating' its code. Exterior residential pool wiring must now be 'earthquake proof' and they gleefully reaped the bounty of over $1,000,000 in re-inspection fines in 2006)
(above, left) A stiff concrete mix is troweled over niche and conduit and given a day to cure.
To make things a little easier for the plaster crew, the light fixture is installed after completion of the final plaster acid wash.
With the light fixture secured in niche, the spa is filled.
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